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Linda Perhacs: God is Saying This to You

By Douglas Wolk, Contributor

"The way I compose music is that I hear it, and then I have to run and write it down," Linda Perhacs says, as we sit on the balcony of a friend's house in the Hollywood Hills. "It's coming this way, so it reflects the universe and God. If we're talking about the creative process, it starts here." She points toward the heavens, then brings her hands down toward her head. Perhacs is about to release… more »

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The Numero Group: Numbers Game

By Peter Margasak, Contributor

Asked about reissue label the Numero Group, Syl Johnson, the Chicago soul singer who logged a series of mid-level hits in the late '60s and early '70s, was forthright: "They're excellent," he said. Anyone who knows anything about Johnson will be floored by this confession. Simply put, Johnson is one of the more notoriously cantankerous figures in Chicago soul music, harboring a sharp disdain for anything that even vaguely resembles the music industry. Yet when it… more »

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Interview: Mavis Staples

By Barry Walters, Contributor

Let's not mince words: Former Staple Singers vocalist and soul/gospel queen Mavis Staples has one of the greatest voices of any living singer regardless of gender or genre, and the extraordinary expressiveness of that voice tumbles out of her even when she talks. When she picks up the phone and says, "Hell-oh," you know this is the same voice that ignited chart-topping '70s classics like "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There." Even at 71… more »

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Mavis Staples, One True Vine

2013 | Label: Anti/Epitaph

Decades after her 1969 solo debut and a whopping 63 years since she joined her family in the Staple Singers, septuagenarian Mavis Staples is once again doing work that eclipses records of singers a third her age. The follow-up to 2010′s stunning You Are Not Alone, One True Vine continues her collaboration with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, a pairing that seems strange in theory but sounds utterly sweet and mutually flattering in the grooves. As before, Tweedy gets unguarded performances from Staples that have sometimes eluded more conventional producers, and Staples… more »

The Como Mamas, Get an Understanding…

2013 | Label: Daptone Records / The Orchard

Ester Mae Smith and sisters Angela Taylor and Della Daniels have been singing together since childhood, but the way their voices blend sounds much older: singing a cappella at Mt. Mariah Baptist Church in Como, Mississippi, the women harness a stripped-down sincerity. In their voices, God is taken off the pedestal and put in arms’ reach.

“Now let us all go back to that old landmark,” the women sing on the first track of Get an Understanding…, an invitation by a gospel trio molded in the land of the blues. “God… more »

The Relatives, The Electric Word

2013 | Label: Yep Roc Records / Redeye

Gospel singer Rev. Gean West and his brother Rev. Tommie formed The Relatives in the early ’70s and disbanded by 1980, but their electrifying, innovative gospel-soul hybrid finally saw the light of day when their early singles and unreleased sessions were compiled on 2009′s Don’t Let Me Fall. The lo-fi glory of those recordings is now utterly fulfilled on this very long-time-coming full-on debut, The Electric Word, which augments the Relatives’ familial voices with members of Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears. The added members powerfully facilitate the Relatives’ remarkable… more »